Players 1- 4
Published by Plaid Hat Games
Do you often find that the theme of many games is lost within their intricate mechanisms? Is the story largely an irrelevance, playing second fiddle to the cut and thrust of game mechanics? Is the glossy artwork nothing more than a thin veneer stretched over slick game design? For your narrative kicks, are you having to resort to the bewilderingly complex world of RPGs or – God forbid – the videogames market? Fear not, Mice and Mystics is the game you’ve been looking for!
Mice and Mystics is a rare beast, blending smooth game design into an immersive experience where the story is king. At first the premise (or premice?) might not seem too appealing, but very quickly you’ll find yourself beguiled by the characters and their adventures. Prince Collin, locked in a dungeon by an evil witch, must rescue his kingdom from darkness. To do this he must escape by turning himself irreversibly into a mouse with the aid of a wizard’s magic. Not to be outdone, the witch turns her own ‘minions’ into nasty Rat Guards to hunt Prince Collin and his companions down.
‘Other hazards you’ll need to contend with are mousetraps, one-eyed crows and greedy cockroaches intent on stealing your cheese…’
Each adventure takes place on a series of satisfyingly chunky tiles representing such fantasy classics as sewers, guard rooms, courtyards and kitchen worktops. Each tile is reversible, cleverly representing the interior or exterior of a previous environment. In the first ‘Chapter’ Collin and his buddies, having defeated their jailers, climb through a grate in the floor. No problem! Turn over the tile and… uh oh… you’re gasping for air and scrabbling to pull you and your party out of the rush of sewer water. Other hazards you’ll need to contend with are mousetraps, one-eyed crows and greedy cockroaches intent on stealing your cheese. Each challenge serves to keep the action fresh, but also forces players to work together to overcome the odds, all the while battling to keep the ‘minions’ at bay.
Sounds frantic doesn’t it? Add to this a ‘Minion Clock’ that turns inexorably, threatening a rush of minion reinforcements and another ominous page turn in the narrative track. If Prince Collin and his pals fail to achieve their objectives before this reaches ‘The End’ the game is lost. To succeed, a careful balance must be struck; reckless haste results in characters quickly becoming ‘captured,’ but by the same token, risk averse players will find that the narrative track will outpace them, throwing all manner of nasty minions in their path.
To succeed, each mouse must be used carefully, playing to their strengths and supporting the whole crew. The archetypes are familiar, albeit in mousey form: Prince Collin is a handy warrior, dishing out plentiful attacks and able to use his command abilities to boost his friends; Nez is a tank, laying down damage with his trusty hammer, a useful mouse to have around when big nasties need squishing; Tilda is a healer, but also uses her empathetic nature to become more powerful when allies are in a bad way; Filch is a… a scamp. Nimble and light fingered, he can be depended upon to scurry rapidly from A to B performing vital tasks. As the adventure continues, missions often force players to change their play style in order to achieve objectives, such as dashing forwards to save a potential ally from a mousetrap.
Few things are more satisfying than when Nez flattens the big nasty with his hammer!
This immersive experience is augmented by the impressive components and it is clear that the designers understood the need for players to enjoy the tactile feel of this game. Everything in the box is chunky and oddly satisfying; granted, the miniatures are not a pinch on the output of say, Games Workshop, but they’re lovely nonetheless – the mice are suitably heroic and the baddies are dastardly and icky in equal measure. They’re solid too, and will tolerate the administrations of younger or ham-fisted players without the need for worrying about breakages. Even the more spindly miniatures, such as the mighty millipede, will stand up to wear and tear, as well as making you shudder just to look at it and even more reluctant to touch the damn thing… Yes, few things are more satisfying than when Nez flattens the big nasty with his hammer!
Don’t be fooled by the cutesy appearance of this game – it’s tough and elegant. One wrong misstep or a foolish move and you and your fellow mice will be in hot water. Plaid Hat Games have captured the feel of a band of heroes up against the odds, whilst sticking to a beautifully realised theme and fun narrative. Even if you manage to finish this game, the experience is such that you will want to introduce others, perhaps taking on the role of another mouse in the party, trying out some of the more esoteric equipment, or embarking on one of the many side-quests littered throughout the campaign.
In the years since its release, Mice and Mystics has won a great many accolades for its achievements and they are certainly well deserved. In a market where too often theme and story is merely window dressing, Mice and Mystics proves that the successful integration of story and gameplay makes for one of the best experiences out there.